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Too often I see leaders “wing” initial conversations. Later on, they struggle with the crucial conversations required to achieve results. Better conversations build credibility, trust, and respect which lead to better business decisions.

Don’t leave your conversations to chance. During times of change, people need more information, not less. Unfortunately, leaders fall into the trap of not communicating enough. Sometimes this happens when leaders think they don’t have anything definitive to say.

When smart people lack clear communication they chart their own course. Others make up their own stories, most of which are wrong. Without proper communication, people lack clarity and productivity will suffer.

By now you might be thinking a more spontaneous, free-flowing conversation better suits your style. But wait a minute, this may not be a prudent choice.

When businesses want results, now. And with change happening at such an alarming rate. You will want to make the most of each interaction. Spending time on the front end will definitely save you time and aggravation on the back end.

Great conversations start with preparation. Then, you can focus more on the person versus on what you want to tell them.

Consider the following as you cultivate better conversations:

1. Know Your Audience – What’s on their mind and impacting their world? Before meeting for the first time, research the people, their backgrounds, and interests.

2. One Single Purpose – You are more apt to make headway if you come prepared with a single purpose and goal for the discussion versus a laundry list of items.

3. Get Comfortable Asking and Fielding Questions – Questions and answers are at the heart of conversations. Think through what you wish to ask. Be ready to respond to those more delicate questions.

4. It’s All About Them –So often preparation time is filled with deciding what to “tell” someone and not enough time on how to handle the interpersonal and emotional aspects of conversations. Put yourself in their shoes.

Slant the conversation to be more about what they need versus about what you need. Make a point to understand their world and their concerns. Use this knowledge to determine if you can make their work just a bit easier to handle. When you enable others, you are unlocking the potential for greater outcomes.

5. Take Action – A conversation is a terrific first step, it’s the follow-up that takes conversations to action. Get clear on what actions to take following the conversation.

So before you jump into that next conversation, prepare with the end in mind.

Where could your conversations use a bit of a boost?